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15 August 2011

Chairmans Update: COWA investigated OFWs concerns of Abuse and Employment opportunities in the Middle East
To our dear migrant kababayan, Greetings of Solidarity! I am pleased to inform you of that the Committee of Overseas Workers Affairs kicked off the second regular session of the 15th Congress with a thorough investigation of the safety and welfare concerns of migrant workers in the Middle East, particularly in relation to the certification of countries fit to receive OFWs; the Gulf countries announced nationalization policy; and, particular cases of abuse reported to Philippine authorities. The highlight of the session was an update provided by Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) officers on delayed repatriation of the remains of an OFW and on the cases of abused OFWs.

Updates on particular cases of OFWs The case of Andy Dimacali Andy Dimacali was an OFW killed in Saudi. Because the circumstances that lead to the murder of Dimacali were unclear and because of the delay in repatriating the victims body, the family had strongly criticized the DFA. Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) Executive Director and former Ambassador to Kuwait Ricardo Endaya reported that Philippine Embassy in Riyadh has already submitted its report on the case of OFW Andy Dimacali. He said that the costs for the repatriation of the remains of OFW Dimacali were shouldered by the DFA. Endaya criticized the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, under the leadership of Philippine Ambassador to the KSA Ezzedin Tago, for being remiss in its duty to immediately repatriate the remains of OFW Dimacali. He disagreed with the posts explanation that the delay was caused by the difficulty to locate the next-of-kin of the deceased OFW. In defense of Amb. Tago, OUMWA Special Assistant Atty. Enrico Fos excused the delay on the ground due to on-going investigations on the case. The Committee requested from the DFA to submit a report on the case. The case of Cristy Cristy, not her real name is a 24-year-old domestic worker in Kuwait. She reported that her female employer gravely abused and maltreated her. She escaped from her employer on June 12 and requested a taxi to take her to the Philippine Embassy. She was recruited by Asmar Agency, her contract stated she will work as a chambermaid in Brunei, however following a week there, she was transferred to Kuwait and made to work as a domestic. Endaya told the Committee that the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait has already submitted its report on the matter. He said that OFW Cristy is already under the custody of our Filipino Resource Center (FRC) and a lawyer was already assigned to handle her case. The case of Salley Salley (not her real name) is a 34 year old OFW working as a school cleaner in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. She was allegedly raped by three Arab men inside the service bus of the school where she's working. She was nine months pregnant and had just come from a maternity clinic for her check up when the incident took place.

DFA reported that on July 13, shortly after she gave birth, DFA representatives met her in the hospital to follow up on her case and evaluate her condition. The representatives also reported the cooperation of the Dammam General Prosecution and Investigation Board, that set up a hearing for Salley to identify her aggressors. On July 19, with the DFA representatives in attendance, Salley positively identified one of the three suspects, Mr. Muhammad Ahmad Abdulla Asiri. The suspect admitted to rape and robbery, for which his family sought an out of court settlement that Salley rejected. The Embassy further reported that the warrant of arrest for the two other suspects has already been issued. They are also in the process of looking for a lawyer to represent Salley. Meanwhile they are preparing the case against the suspects while waiting for the schedule of the next hearing.

Members of the Committee said they would await updates on the above cases and other reported abuses of our OFWs.

Updates on certification of countries that are fit to receive Filipino migrant workers The DFA, represented by OUMWA officials Ricardo Endaya and Enrico Fos, explained that they had issued positive certification for 114 countries. Negative status was given to 39 countries because they did not meet any of the criteria stipulated under Sec. 4 of RA 10022. In the Middle East, Syria was given positive certification, Libya was given the negative certification. Bahrain, UAE, Yemen, Qatar, Oman, and Saudi Arabia received qualifiedpositive certification, which means that they have national legislations that protect migrant workers except domestic workers. On the part of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), Administrator Carlos Cao said they received 76 certifications for compliant countries from the DFA in May. In the same month, they also requested the DFA for clarification of some countries certifications. This representation had also raised the issue of why Libya and Syria had different certifications if security considerations were made, especially given the political instability in Syria, which the DFA has yet to resolve. In conclusion, the committee had granted Admin. Caos request for COWA to extend their deadline for certification once again, as it was pending with the POEA governing board. The DFA had also made the commitment to look into the implications certification results will have on the employment of Filipino workers in the various countries, as well as other aspects of political and economic relations.

Nationalization policies in the Gulf Countries The POEA assured the committee that we should not be alarmed with the announced nationalization policy in the Gulf states, primarily because this has been on the agenda of the said states since the late 1980s and amplified recently by the various political uprisings in the said countries where demonstrators demanded their respective governments to prioritize employment for their nationals rather than for migrant workers. Likewise, they assured us that the executive is ready to adopt mechanisms that would ease the employment problem this would create. They had particularly cited on-line registration assistance for blue and green work, and the implementation of on-site reemployment assistance for workers in the red/yellow companies who will be displaced. The government has also committed to exploring reintegration measures for OFWs. The Agency also clarified that the nationalization policy does not cover domestic work.

Saudis ban on domestic workers The POEA confirmed the unilateral announcement of the Saudi Ministry of Labor that it disagrees with the $400.00 minimum wage requirement that the Philippines has set for domestic workers. In relation to this, the Saudi government announced that, effective July 2, 2011, they no longer issue VISAs to domestic workers from the Philippines and Indonesia. The DFA announced to the committee that they continue to look into the consequences this policy will have on the RP-KSA relations. 2

Suspension of technical working group meetings on Mandatory Insurance and OWWA Charter bills This representation also announced that we will not rush consideration of bills to expand mandatory insurance and establish the Charter of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). Owing to many requests to provide input, we will set up a internet consultation mechanism through which our kababayan can provide their feedback on the said pieces of legislation. In a separate meeting with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), we also conveyed our request to Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz for a detailed assessment of the implementation of the mandatory insurance provisions of the amended Overseas Workers Act (RA 10022) before considering bills proposing the extension of mandatory insurance. We will also request for the OWWA to submit its position paper with respect to the OWWA charter.

Please be informed that this representation continues to receive the concerns of migrant kababayan that are either brought to the Committee, or received thru Akbayan and our office in Congress. We continue to work in close coordination with the DFA, DOLE, and other related agencies to ensure that the needs of the Bagong Bayani are addressed in a timely matter. Thank you very much for your continued support. Sincerely,

Walden Bello, Chairman, Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs